Review: Jesse Harris at Georgia Scherman.

March 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

Stepping off of Tecumseh St. towards the Georgia Scherman Gallery, I was greeted by a conspicuous black tag stuck to the front of the door, ominously warning ‘Parental advisory: explicit content.’ Largely ignorant of Jesse Harris’ artistic style, I couldn’t figure out if it had been pasted there by the curator, or a neighbourhood kid. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was a sort of introduction to the solo-exhibition of Toronto artist Jesse Harris, entitled Language, Sex, Violence.

Taking the 1970s punk counter-culture as inspiration, Harris uses the ‘symbols of punkdom,’ as one of his publications puts it, such as the safety pin, chains and garage bands, along with themes of subversion, rebellion, humor and sexuality to provoke the viewer. His work on display was very diverse, ranging from silkscreen to plexi glass installation, oil painting to engraving. A general direction to the exhibit seemed to be vandalism, or more specifically, a break-in to an art gallery. An aluminum bat was propped up to one wall, probably the instrument that brought about the shards of plexi glass in ‘Smashed Vitrine (2012).’ ‘Tabloid Clipping’ (2012) in one corner recounts a puzzling hold-up at an art gallery, where thieves stole $9 from the cash bar and left without as much as a glance at the priceless works of art. Humorous criticism of the art establishment, or of what is deemed ‘high art’, reverberates through the exhibit, putting on display the tension between the ‘art for art’s sake’ ideology of the 19th century and the pop art appeal to ‘art for life.’

What brought the great variety of works and subject matter into cohesive unity was the gallery space. It fit Harris’s ‘do-it-yourself’ ethos very well, and provided just enough room to give his pieces proper visibility. The gallery is a two room space, where in the front room a garage door opens up onto the street. With concrete floors, a roomy layout, and a few of Harris’ canvas works propped up against the walls, the youthful mood of Harris’ collection seems to transform the gallery into a garage-band’s after school practice space.

Language, Sex, Violence is humorous, diverse and one of the most lively exhibits I have seen in quite a while. Playfully rebellious and visually stimulating, Harris’ work does not miss a beat when it comes to the punk spirit.

Language, Sex, Violence runs until April 14.

-Anne Deck

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